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Guarding the Choke Points – Energy Security as a Military Challenge

Interesting report in the Wall Street Journal about how the United States is severely lacking in alternatives to alleviate potential disruptions of the oil supply. Some of the sources interviewed highlight the military approach toward energy security, and the website features a great interactive feature: chokepoints.jpg

Today, back in Washington, he is pushing for a complete redefinition of energy security, one that urges the U.S. to consume less oil and consider the security implications of global warming such as the possible need to beef up disaster readiness. “From a military perspective, you respond to threats with air and naval forces. That’s kind of the traditional things that we’ve done in the past,” says Gen. Wald, 57 years old, who is working with a handful of research and lobby groups. “Our thought was, we need to change the paradigm.” Three years into the sharpest spike in oil prices in a generation, policy makers and military leaders across the globe are grappling with the implications of fundamental change in energy geopolitics. One such leader is the new U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, who took part last year in a war game simulating disruptions to the oil trade. It concluded the U.S. had few short-term fixes if supplies were jolted. Supply lines are longer and oil fields more numerous than a generation ago. New threats have emerged, from rebels in West Africa to terrorists targeting Saudi Arabia. With supply and demand tightly balanced, even small disruptions can cause big price swings, endangering economic growth. Nationalistic fossil-fuel powers such as Russia have shown willingness to brandish energy as a weapon. The war in Iraq has hammered the oil industry in the world’s third-largest holder of conventional oil reserves. … Zbigniew Brzezinski, who authored the Carter Doctrine as national security adviser to President Carter, says a 21st-century energy-security strategy must address “far more diffuse and interwoven” threats than the Soviet threat he was targeting. Gen. Wald believes the Pentagon needs a centralized energy-security policy covering all the military’s branches. Currently the issue is mainly left up to individual regional commanders or to service branches such as the Navy or Army. “We’ve kind of avoided talking about military power and oil,” Gen. Wald says. “It’s a major issue for the Department of Defense to look at and plan for, and I don’t think they’ve done that.”